Books

Pakistan with the eyes of an Indian Muslim

Original_mg323-pakistan-with-the-eye

Book: Khuda Ki Basti Mey: Safarnama Lahore wa Islamabad (In the Land of God: A travelogue of Lahore and Islamabad)
Author: Dr Obaidullah Fahd Falahi
Publisher: Al Qalam Publications, Baramulla, Kashmir.
Year of Publication: 2012
Pages: 232
Price: Rs 125



Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander


Pakistan and India were parts of the same united subcontinent before 1947. In 1947, the subcontinent got partitioned and Pakistan was created. Since then enmity is prevalent among these two nations. These countries have also fought four wars against each other and the Kashmir issue besides other issues still remains a bone of contention between them.

Travelling to Pakistan still remains a contentious and difficult task for most Indians, particularly  Muslims. This travelogue under review by a scholar is not a diatribe against the difficulties faced in getting a visa to Pakistan, neither does it deal with the political bickering between the two nations.

This travelogue by a seasoned academic who is a researcher in Political Islam and Islamic Revivalist Movements, deals with his travel to Lahore and Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, on two different occasions. While dealing with his Lahore travels, the author takes us back to 1988 when he was a research student and had gone to Lahore to hunt for material and books related to his topic. He relates his stay with Islami Jamiat Taulba cadres at Lahore who also helped him out during his stay. He also talks about visiting the injured mujahedin of Afghan Jihad who were fighting against the Soviet  troops in Afghanistan and were being hospitalized in Lahore. He feels the impact of Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation in Lahore. He feels that the loud-speakers of mosques at the Friday congregational prayers rebuff the faithful  away from the mosques.

Dr Obiadullah also laments  the fact that Indian film stars and movies are quite popular in Pakistan and their influence can be witnessed on the Pakistani movies and life too. He also relates that one of his books was published in Pakistan without his consent or permission and the publisher wasn’t ashamed or remorseful.

He is critical of the fact and time and again that Pakistan betrays its meaning of La Ilalaha Illallah (There is no God but Allah) and it is a fact that West has conquered it culturally. He also relates his meeting with the then President of Pakistan, General Ziaul Haq. He both criticises and praises his policies.

He relates a painful experience he encountered on his return at Wagah border, where most of his books were confiscated by the Indian army personnel who labelled them as “dangerous and harmful” for the interests of India. Such intellectual enmity and suffocation is really condemnable.

The second part of the travelogue deals with his recent journey to Islamabad for a seminar on the Seerah writings (Biographies of the Prophet) in present times. It was  organized by the International Islamic University of Islamabad (IIUI) during 26-28 March, 2011. He relates that women writing on Seerah is more popular in Pakistan than in India. In other fields too, women’s participation is quite good. Dr Obiadullah talks about the Muhajirs (those who migrated from India to Pakistan) who were relating their plight. He advised them that they should stop complaining and must adopt fundamentals of Islamic fraternity and teachings. Asking victims to inculcate these qualities would be adding insult to injury, because dominant groups like Punjabis should have accepted them with open arms in the first place. Muhajirs were the people who sacrificed for the sake of Pakistan, but later on they found that this land of the pure wasn’t so pure and inclusive so as to integrate and assimilate them too.

Dr Obaidullah criticizes Musharraf’s policy of moderation. It is a fact that the Pakistani dictator was rightly called “Busharraf” by activists and writers of Pakistan. He was responsible for giving a fillip to the clash between army and non-State actors that brought Pakistan to the brink of disaster. He also records the debate about the Blasphemy Law as promulgated and enforced by Ziaul Haq regime and how the talk about its amendment led to the assassination of Governor  Salman Taseer. He also talks about the media war that is going on between India and Pakistan and how newspapers and electronic media of both countries are involved in a continuous propaganda war against each other. The Indian media portrays Pakistan as a dangerous country that would fall apart soon. Similarly, Pakistan media paints a bleak picture of India and Indian Muslims. This kind of yellow journalism and biased reporting reinforces the hate among the people of these two nations that diminishes the chances of any permanent peace.

Dr Obaidullah writes about his meetings with various personalities belonging to diverse fields of life in Pakistan, particularly Islamic scholars like Dr Israr Ahmad, Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Zafar Ishaq Ansari, Dr Anees Ahmad, Maulana Gauhar Rahman, Dr Mahmood Ahmad Ghazi and Prof Khursheed Ahmad, besides the famous novelist Naseem Hijazi.

This book doesn’t read as a travelogue but as a diary and it deals less with events and what author witnessed during his travels, but more about the Islamic personalities and books. The book is an important source to know about books which have been cited throughout the book particularly on the Political Thought of Islam, given the author’s background in this field. The author could have made a comparison between his latest visit with the previous one two decades earlier, but he fails on this count.

This book is related more with Islamic ideology, views of scholars, Muslim Political Thought, proceedings of the seminar and names of various books, that certainly doesn’t make it a very readable travelogue, but it can act as a reference book on various aspects of Muslim Political and Religious Thought.

The book is well written, but more seriousness and less academic style would certainly have made it a good read.

Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached at sikandarmushtaq@gmail.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2013 on page no. 21

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